Thursday, February 28, 2008

Peggy Guggenheim Collection Internship, Venice

by Jason Marquis

in which our New York correspondent gives insight on what to expect from an internship at the Venetian museum

As they say, sometimes you get more than you bargain for. My internship at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice was just such an occasion. This internship was, at times, worse than the “I- only-make-photocopies” kind we all dread. To work at the Guggenheim is to volunteer for hours of mindless guarding. That’s right: guarding. Somewhere along the line, someone capitalized on what a real money-saver the internship program could be. It was rare during my stay to get the opportunity to work in the director’s office or even with the registrar. The lucky few who did, had contacts at Sotheby’s or a trustee in their family; the art-world is far from fair in that regard. No doubt my situation was made all the more grim be the fact that I couldn’t speak Italian for weeks.

My only stimulation and gratification came from the tours I organized at the palazzo-turned-museum. I was given free reign to lecture on Modernism, museology and the Guggenheim family. My favorite stories (and the audience’s as well) were about Peggy’s open sex life. For example, a young woman once attempted to embarrass her at a Venetian masquerade by quipping from across the diner table, “So how many husbands have you had?” The quick-witted heiress responded, “Sorry dear, did you mean mine, or Others’?”

For as much as the Guggenheim abuses its internship program, the coincidental opportunities it provided went well beyond my expectations. The real reward for my work there laid outside what the museum could offer. I lived in Venice! I rode a boat to work every morning up the Grand Canal. I had a café where they knew me by name. I had libraries full of art historical texts at my fingertips: catalogs bursting with ideas. My apartment was a step from the American Pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale, so I walked right over, asked for a job, and they gave it to me sight unseen. I met Ellsworth Kelly, Anish Kapoor, Zada Hadid, Matthew Barney and was humbled by my idols’ humanity.

Above all, I enjoyed the people; the only redeeming characteristic to the internship at the Peggy Guggenheim is its cosmopolitanism. Australians, Austrians, Americans, Britons, Germans, Italians, Chinese, Canadians, French, Latvians and Norwegians (just to name a few of the nationalities) composed the greatest amalgamation of art-minded individuals I have ever known. We stood on our feet all day looking at art, barking at visitors with curious fingers, and would afterward go for drinks to do the incredible: talk art. I’m not ashamed to admit I learned more about my field in those months abroad than I have in all my undergraduate schooling.

I drank spritz with Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s family and young collectors from California and England; toasted Thomas Krens, Director of the Guggenheim Foundation, below a Tiepolo ceiling in a 17th century Palazzo; I went to the beach on Lido every afternoon and met artists and editors I now work with.Sure enough, working at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection was Hell, but sometimes a bargain with the Devil has its rewards.


Anonymous said...

Useful reading for those ones still searching for an internship. Thanks!

jill c said...

Jason, good to read about the internship, I just sent out my application packet for the winter 3 month session. I know its not going to be beach weather but I suppose all of the perks of the internship will hopefully make up for it. do you have a contact I could get in case I have more questions (where and how did you found a place to live etc...?) you can contact me at jilltcampoli at thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

Hello Jason,

Thanks for the post. It gives a better idea of what to expect. I am about to apply. Do you have any tips for the application?

It would be very helpful, I know it is quite hard to get selected. Even though my chances are limited I want all the help I can get. I am writing all the way from Mexico!

rachael affleck said...

I am just now waiting for my either acceptation of rejection to the program... Do you have any advice for me? Or any tips?

Anonymous said...

Hello! I have applied for an internship and was wondering when you heard back after you applied. The website says we'd know by December 1st but it's the 3rd and I haven't received word. Were they late in getting back to you? (Rachel have you heard anything?) Thanks!

Anonymous said...

hello, my name is claudia, and i am thinking of applying for the internship at the Guggenheim. i know this was posted a while ago, but i was wondering if you had any tips on what they will be expecting from an application or what will help make my application standout. Also i was wondering if it is okay that i have not graduated yet to be able to apply. I'm still on my 3rd year in university. thank you for your time. My email is